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Dinner Party

Published 1945

Dramatized presentation of proper table etiquette for teenagers, heavy on criticism and guilt.

Run time 15:30
Producer Simmel-Meservey
Sponsor N/A
Audio/Visual Sd, B&W


The subject of this film is proper table etiquette and is presented in dramatized form by a group of teenagers who are attending a birthday party honoring the host. A full three course dinner is served consisting of the usual soup, meat, and dessert.

Safety Danger Lurks Manners Etiquette Social guidance Social control Meals Dinners Mealtime


Reviewer: - - May 15, 2011
Subject: When People Cared
The purpose of this film was to help teenagers learn the conventional etiquette of the time so that when they married and entertained their friends and business acquaintances they wouldn’t appear boorish and uncivilized.

Everyone played by the same rules and once you learned them you were confident and comfortable in any social situation and faced a leveled playing field. No worry about hubby missing out on a promotion because he had the table manners of a family pet or wife losing out on the coveted chair of the garden club because she acted like a fool at the table. Stuffy and pretentious? or maybe just considerate of others and focused on doing and being your best in society. It was like a choreographed dance.

Of course in today’s “Anything Goes” society it is perfectly acceptable to eat like a farm animal and make whatever choices you wish because it’s all about “me” and no regard for others. Nothing quite like trying to eat a meal where Johnny talks with his mouth full of food and Susie couldn’t care less about the people she’s disgusting with her gross eating habits!

For those who have no desire to be a part of gracious society: indulge your meanest whims! It’s all about you!
Reviewer: duralaster - - March 18, 2009
Subject: Summaries
People seems to think these films are provided for comedic purposes. They are not. People also seem to think they are "evil" for some reason. I'd just as well watch them for what they are and I wish whoever types the summaries would keep his opinion to himself. If he wants to comment on the film he can post a message here with everyone else. A summary is not used to voice your opinions.
Reviewer: ERD. - - August 16, 2008
Subject: Upper Middle Class Dinner Party of 1945
In those times, I would think the teenagers of their socio-economic background would have already learned the "proper manners" at an earlier age. Of course in today's times a lot of the things shown are outdated and overblown. While I found the film historically interesting,
it seemed funny to me that the teenagers drank milk instead of soda.
Reviewer: 62Baby - - January 11, 2008
Subject: A MUST SEE!!!!????
Man, you got to see this!!! I wasn't around in the 40s but did people (teens???) really act like this??!!! Too funny. The olive scene is great, too much. I almost expected her to spit it out across the table. And, what do you do with a pit???heheheheIt would have added to the dinner party. Maybe making it a little less stressful and more normal. By the way, why did Bob have to serve the food?? If the housekeeper was there why didn"t she do it? Or was this not the norm in the 40s!? And the narrator was beginning to make me feel paranoid. I actually felt sorry for those people there.
I'm still laughing. You have to see this and then be happy you were not there!!! Just in case you eat like a European!!!haha I do, so I would have had to sit with the two who wanted more jelly!! But did the narrator really say what was the proper way?? I think not, or i missed it.
Seriously though, you HAVE TO SEE THIS!! If not just for the entertainment value.
Reviewer: nephildevil - - December 4, 2005
Subject: i had tears in my eyes!
From laughing, this film is totally hilarious!!!

An absolute must see, funny as hell!!!!!!!!
Reviewer: Ja30fitz - - July 31, 2005
Subject: That narrators voice...ugh...
Did anyone else notice the narrator's voice? It was surely the most irritating voice I have heard on this site yet... Now to the film- this film reminds me of 'Habit Patterns', due to the narrator chiding people for thier "lack" of manners. They're just people, not robots!
Reviewer: talulahgosh - - June 10, 2005
Subject: this is eating?
In the words of Crow T. Robot, "This film makes me want to heat up a Libbyland dinner and eat it in front of tv."
Here's an idea: instead of honing our table manners to a fine upper class hoody-hah, we disregard manners altogether! I have better things to worry about than the salad's size or picking the correct cutlery.
Only four stars because it does begin to drag with its anal retentiveness.
Reviewer: dalangdon - - June 10, 2005
Subject: Sparking Conversation and a Sumptions Meal
Betty, despite a vicious housekeeper reminicent of Miss Danvers in "Rebecca", attempts to throw a birthday dinner with her boyfriend Bob (get your mind out of the gutter - Bob is a visitor to the home, and Mrs Danvers is there to Chaperone). Bound by convention, she chooses one of those "Salted Nuts and Olives" sorts of menus that leaves everyone feeling heavy and dull.

The narrator, perhaps having just ingested one of those meals himself, does his best to keep the pace dreary and mundane. By the time the relish tray is passed (after the soup and before the main course) Betty is a mess. Thank God there was no wine served with this meal!

The Entree service is fraught with peril as "Bob" must serve the meat. He already proved himself to be something of a clod during the relish and soup service, and makes a mess of this as well.

I'd like to report that violence errupted during the salad course (which comes after the Entree - very Euro of Bob and Betty) but they hold their own, even though Bob starts getting a little out of hand (maybe there WAS liquor served after all!)

After the meal is done, and the birthday cake served, Bob and Betty's relationship is a burning hulk on the shore of love, while the oblivious guests Bernie and Helen (ethnic types, if I ever saw one - and I seen plenty) prattle on and even help themselves to more jelly. The other guests seem to just skulk about, probably as embarassed as everyone else.

The moral of the story seems to be never assume - and wait until you are married to have a dinner party.
Reviewer: Karma Hawk - - March 19, 2005
Subject: A paranoid adventure through dinner.
This is one of those "must see" films at Prelinger as it is one of the wierder films here. Esentily it shows a group of friends having a dinner party, however what should be a lesson in basic table manners is turned into an expierience in Paranoia by the one uninvited guest, the Narator. The Narator in this film finds room to critisize about every little thing that happens at the party, he adds a level of tension that is almost unheard of for a dinner "Betty wonders if sh should try Floyd's method of eating the olive" "Should Bob be giving the girls smaller portions" "Bob sat on his Napkin" "Betty wonders if she's giving too small a serving of salad" the Narattor never really answers the questions he asks but we presume that everthing he states should be done untill he mentions "it's important to note all the things done right at this dinner" although he never mentions what these are. The best part though is how the Narrator stresses that "Rules make sense"(I'm paraphrasing here) before mediling over the way Betty eats an olive. One thing I should point out. time has not been kind to this film and it is missing a couple frames here and thier, so be forwarned. Actually though that just adds to it's quirkiness.
Reviewer: GoCelluloid - - February 13, 2005
Subject: Lighten up, folks!
If I was a guest at this party, I'd run out the door at the first chance I got. Watching Bob and Betty freak out over serving a meal, or spilling a drink, is rich. If they have a maid, why isn't she doing all the work?
Reviewer: Marysz - - June 8, 2004
Subject: The Proper Way to Eat an Olive
Betty gives a claustrophobic birthday dinner party for her friend Bob. An unseen narrator gives nonstop commentary about Betty and BobÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs continuous lapses of etiquette. Their guests, Bernie and Helen and Floyd and Dorothea have perfect manners and stay politely silent while poor Bob and Betty make one faux pas after another. Looking at films like this now, itÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs hard to fathom why they were made. But it could have to do with the fact that this was a time when many second-generation immigrants were assimilating into American society. The table manners of the Old Country just wouldnÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂt do. Also, this film was made in 1945, as World War II was ending. The American Home Front was a chaotic place, with the men at war, women working and kids left to fend for themselves. There must have been a feeling of things being out of control. This film, with its dreary emphasis on good manners and its endless harping on ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂconsiderationÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ for others, is a premonition of the empty conformity that would be the rule in America in the fifties.
Reviewer: DrAwkward - - March 6, 2004
Subject: Dinner Party (From Hell)
It's a rare treat to see one of these social control films directed at the upper middle class ("Habit Patterns" is another classic in this genre) because they're always psychotic and usually calculated to inspire high levels of paranoia about minor points of etiquette. *Dinner Party* is a particularly stressful example, because rather than instructing, the narrator points out the fauxs-pas of the dinner party guests in a relentless voiceover fast enough to be a sportscast of a horse race. This print of the film is also broken in many places, which adds to the jumpiness of the experience. The voiceover asks far more questions than it answersÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ*should* you butter your vegetables with a fork?ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂand leaves the viewer befuddled and fearful that like the film's sloppy birthday boy, Bob (a very goodlooking guy who gives a wonderful performance despite the pantomime construction) you will never be able to know or master the requirements of taste and class necessary for entrance into the upper class. An incredible film, like a distilled version of an Edith Wharton novel.
Reviewer: dynayellow - - September 2, 2003
Subject: My dinner with Kafka.
How did people manage to get any food down their throats in the 1940s? This film presents a world of dinner ettiquette which is supposed to make sure that maximum enjoyment is had by all, but really just presents a group so terrified of doing anything Incorrect that they spend the entire meal either copying how others are eating (to their own shame), or politely looking away as the host literally trembles before the idea of serving a portion of meat. Amazing stuff.
Reviewer: mdxi - - May 2, 2003
Subject: Straight up horrifying
I've watched a lot of these movies, including all the "classics" covered by MST3K, and this one is way up on the Scary List. The sledgehammering of the message of propriety through guilt, conformity, and public shame is as shocking to a modern as, one supposes, the ease of access to pornography would have been to a Victorian. The real irony, of course, is that this movie was made either just before or just after the end of hostilities with Japan, which was often targetted in progaganda films as being unAmerican by dint of its culture of shame, self-censure, and suppression of the individual no matter the cost.
Reviewer: Spuzz - - April 18, 2003
Subject: Gluttons for punsihment
All through this monstrosity I was shaking my head and wondering who the heck ARE these people that believe that high manners is a sure way to be accepted in society? Again, this is a frightening film to behold, as a dinner party from hell starts off DISASTROUSLY. Why, the napkin is in the wrong place and the butter knife is incorrectly placed! More dinner problems are faced, as the guests stop and wonder if they've done the right thing all throughout the meal, which makes for one bizarre sight. Having good manners, the narrator says, makes for a good party. But just by looking at this film, one wonders if these people are total sadomasochists by conforming so much to how they're supposed to act (the olive eating is the absurd highlight.. Does one pop it into your mouth, or take a bite out of it? and what about the pit?) at the party table. Definitely a must see on this site. But warning: Seeing this and 'Dining Together' may just warp your mind.
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